He Was To Lead Them... This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 10, 2013
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‘It was like the script of an Hollywood movie gone wrong,” my uncle started. I looked at him and from the expression on his face, I knew that all was not well – we were going to have one long conversation.

“It was on a Thursday,” he continued with his story, “ barely three weeks after Christmas when it all happened.”

He was from his small shop in Awendo town. It was barely three in the afternoon, yet he had to close early if he wanted to have his shop intact the next day.

There were demonstrations all over the country. Stories of murders, displacements, rape were rife in Kenya during this period. It was the post-election violence.

He was walking cautiously on the departed streets. The loneliness of the road almost shocked him. He was about some hundred metres from his shop when he heard it…

There was noise all over sudden. Shouts, cries, screams and cheers rent the air!

Goodness, what was happening? He asked himself.

He stood there rooted to the ground. Was he to run home? Was he to go and see what was happening?

Then he saw smoke billowing into the sky….

A bonfire! They had lit a bonfire.

He decided that it was worth checking out what was happening and so he cautiously approached the scene of the noise.

They were at the junction – the rowdy mob.

He could see them shouting and jumping. He saw that they had barricaded the road and a small car was burning. So, it wasn’t actually a bonfire, they had set a Toyota Corolla on fire.

They were blood thirsty youths – young men and women crying for vengeance for what they termed as ‘stolen victory.’ For them the incumbent president had stolen from them what rightfully belonged to them and now they would regain it by all means.

He drew closer to them, deciding to stay some twenty metres away lest the police came calling. He remembered how the police had beat a similar mob just the other day and he didn’t want to be a victim of police brutality.

He froze! The mob was not just burning a car – they were beating up somebody.

He drew even closer just to be sure. Perhaps his eyes were pranking him. It was true! He rubbed his eyes harder – it as still true, they beating up a man presumably in his early thirties.

The man was wailing and screaming . Maybe he was screaming from the blows and kicks that overwhelmed his body or perhaps from the loss of his car.

The mob didn’t care how much tears that he shed; neither did they care about the blood that was oozing from his mouth into the tarmac of the road uniting him with his ancestors. All that mattered was that he was an intruder – an enemy!

My uncle recognized him – he was Kamau, the owner of a small leather shoe shop in town.

Why were they doing this to him? How could they be so inhumane to a man who was their neighbour? Had he not even married their very own daughter? Didn’t they care about all that he had done for them.

Yet he understood, they had been blinded! Blinded by anger and their faces covered with the veil of tribalism.

“Aargh!” Kamau cried, he had been hit by a stone on the face.

My uncle saw the man who hit him and looked at him. He was shocked – it was Otieno.

Was it not the very same Otieno who Kamau had allowed to stay in one of his rental apartments for free? And if that was not enough, had Kamau not given the same Otieno six thousand shillings to buy something for his family during Christmas? The world never ceases to amaze….

He felt sorry for Kamau, bearing the brunt of a sin that he had no knowledge of. Suffering the consequences of something that he was not part and parcel of. He had not chosen to be born in a different tribe, had he? Now that was what had condemned him to death – being born of a different tribe.

“Tieke!” One of the men shouted in the local d dialect. Finish him!

What! Now my uncle was shaking! He couldn’t let them do this to a hapless and harmless man like Kamau. He had to do something… now!

What could he do? What if the mob turned against him? What if he was to undergo the same torture that Kamau was now undergoing?

But he had to… he remembered Martin Luther Junior, his hero and his words came slowly to his mind, possessing him… “the hottest part in hell is reserved for those who at a time of moral crisis, took a neutral stand…”

He wouldn’t burn in hell. He surged forward.

‘No!’ he shouted at the mob in their vernacular Luo. He had decided – he would stand up for Kamau.

The mob was shocked! Such courage scared them. They stared at the man who had the audacity to order a bloodthirsty mob and became even more baffled! Was he not Okumu, their favourite shopkeeper.

It was chon’ chon’ gi lala, long ago, my uncle began, when Nyasaye created the universe. It long ago when Ramogi, Nyasaye’s first son came down to the earth. And so Nyasaye created other men and women. All of them equal, He created them to prosper and subdue the earth. Man and woman – to live together in harmony as brothers and sisters.

Why were they doing this to an innocent man who had, more than anybody else, helped the community.? Was it not this Kamau who had contributed the hugest amount of money in the fundraiser to build the local school? Was it not Kamau’s wife, who helped their wives in the local dispensary by paying for them medication fee? Yet they wanted to kill him. If the elections had been stolen as they claimed, was it Kamau who had rigged the ballot?

He urged them to let him be and embrace him as the brother that he was. Was elections to ruin their unity? No, it wasn’t meant for that. Elections were meant to help them come closer as Kenyans.

He stopped. He had run out of words. He had done his part and now the ball was on their court.

They stared at him – their faces hard and cold. Who was this who had the effrontery to tell them what to do! Was he there leader? He wasn’t. What was he? He was nothing. How could he tell them anything!

One of them, strong, tall and heavily built came forward. He was the man who had given the order to finish Kamau. My uncle felt his heart almost stop as he stood there transfixed to the ground. Fear took its toll on him, and he could feel the cold beads of sweat trickling all over his face. He was scared.

Their eyes locked and he could see the evil lurking in his eyeballs.

My uncle wrenched in pain. The slap that he had received from the rough hands was not only hard but painful. A tear rolled down his face.

The mob was silent, all waiting for their leader to give the go ahead. How lucky they were, now it was going to be double lynching.

“Superman!” The leader barked. “You…”

My uncle was literally trembling, just like a chameleon on a frail twig would. What was he going to say next…

“You are going to lead us!” The man finished his statement.

Lead them? Now my uncle was confused. Lead them where…? To the grave?

No, he wouldn’t lead them to the grave! He would lead them when the sun rose again, and he would take them to the men who had stolen the elections and rigged the ballot, for he had spoken as if he knew where they were.

“And if you don’t…”the leader threatened, “you will face the wrath of the chokruok!”

The chokruok was the mob and their wrath was feared and dreaded by all and sundry. The epitome of their insanity could at times prove to be fatal.

They began dispersing,… their leader at first, and then one by one they trickled away. Maybe they were going to find their next victim? Maybe they would go home waiting for tomorrow, thirsty for his blood!

He looked down at Kamau… who coiled to the ground nursing his beatings and he bent over and hugged him. Kamau’s pain was his comfort.

They were beasts! Enraged animals without total disrespect for the human race. And when it struck that when the sun would go down and rise again, he would be their new leader – a tear rolled down his face.

He didn’t know what he would do? Where he would hide? Where could the earth swallow him and hide for at least a day? But he knew in the back of his mind that somehow Nyasaye would make a way.

Maybe… maybe not… he would lead them…

I close my notebook and notice the coffee in my mug is almost over.

I look at my uncle right in the eye. He is expressionless. I don’ know why. Maybe in his mind the figure of the man staring at him with those evil eyes hasn’t gone away.

I ask him one more question, why this day is very significant to him…

He tells me, “I saved Kamau from the wrath of the insane chokruok!”

I am satisfied.

I gulp down the last contents of my cup.

My coffee is now over

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